I always loved Albrecht Durer’s watercolor “The Great Piece of Turf” (1503) when I was in high school (oh, the wonders of Google–check out a virtual 3D model of a virtual planting of the “turf” in a short animation here). He went outside and actually studied the texture of the ground, the tiny hills and valleys of the ant world. Second Life demands you determine the texture of your ground as well, but limits you to four ground textures that meld into one another, but change according to terrain height.
Hmm. Correct ground for three parts of the world? It couldn’t be absolutely accurate, not if I didn’t want Philadelphia to have a sparkling white beach or Ijile, the composite Yoruba town, to lack a granite inselberg backdrop. Lots of SL texture stores sell terrain textures, which should be seamless and 512×512 pixels. I knew I wanted a reddish sandy ground, a reddish muddy ground, ground with some hints of grass and a stony texture, because I was letting Ijile dictate my basics–the earth would be used for the 1796 buildings, so ground and building texture had to be compatible. My private sim, Saminaka is primarily beach and parched pale earth, a combo my sim designer Vanity Bonetto came up with–it’s successful, but that’s for Middle Belt Nigeria, not the more southernly Yoruba terrain. Not all Yoruba earth has a reddish tinge, but some does (from laterite), and I liked it. Also, the earth texture I chose has a muddy look, which will suit the rainy season.
I found my best textures in a set by SL resident Totem Flow’ in his/her Flowscapes store (the XStreet address is here) that includes more than six textures for 500L. The artist provides a lot of choice within matched sets, and they’re expertly done; packs of 20 varied textures sell for 1000L, and terraforming is also available. However, I needed one ground texture with a hint of grass, so I downloaded my mud to Photoshop, and played with layering another grassy texture on top, while keeping it seamless. It took a while, but the results were satisfying. An upload required still more tweaks, as I adjusted the heights each texture should occupy under SL’s World>Estate Management menu.
An aside here to builders–I’m no graphic artist, but the whole process (from simple signs to textures to dressmaking) of creating an academic sim NEEDS Photoshop. Remember, you academics, there are academic software houses that provide a substantial discount to bona fide students and profs, like Academic Superstore or Creation Engine. You may also find your University has enough Photoshop licenses to toss one your way. I’m not sure if the cheaper Adobe Photoshop Elements can really do enough. There’s also a free alternative image editing software, known as the GIMP–plenty in Second Life swear by it, but I’m familiar with Photoshop basics and am lucky enough to have it, so no GIMP for me.